Lando Norris ranks top five teams on F1 grid ahead of Bahrain GP

The McLaren driver predicts Ferrari and Red Bull as leading forces with a close battle among top contenders

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Lando Norris has taken the bold step and predicted how the top five Formula 1 teams will line-up going into the the 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix, singling out Ferrari to challenge Red Bull in Formula 1’s 2024 season as he declares a clear “top two” ahead of McLaren and their closest rivals.

Much of the buzz in the F1 off-season has been about whether someone can make the same sort of gain McLaren or Aston Martin made, from the back to the front, to challenge Red Bull who won 21 out of 22 races in the previous season.

And after F1 testing, it looks as though we might have the answer as Ferrari appear to look very strong, placing them in a similar predicament to the start of 2022, although Norris does admit they only have a “rough idea” of where they all currently are.

“We have a rough idea of where we are at but we don’t know where we stand,” Norris said to the media ahead of the Bahrain GP.  “It’s clear there is a top two then a bunch behind with Mercedes, Aston Martin and us.”

Williams driver Albon disagrees

Meanwhile Alex Albon says that he doesn’t expect the Formula 1 grid order to change significantly in 2024 and concedes that Red Bull are a cut above anyone else.

in 2023 F1 effectively had four sub-leagues with Red Bull being the fastest package, followed by Ferrari, Mercedes, McLaren and Aston Martin who swap between the second fastest track by track.

Then comes teams who can battle for small points such as Alpine, Williams and Sauber. On their own at the back were generally Haas, who have been dumbfounded about how to use the Pirelli tyres over a race stint.

For the upcoming season, the Thai-British driver doesn’t expect that to change much. For example, Haas won’t suddenly find themselves in the podium hunt like Aston Martin and McLaren did in 2023, but he expects the field to get tighter, consistent with the trend of the last two seasons.

“To be honest with you,” Albon said to media ahead of the Bahrain GP. “I don’t think the positions have changed so much. I don’t think that the order’s going to be so different, but the group has tightened up massively, there is not really a slowest team anymore.

“I think obviously Red Bull might have a little bit of an advantage and there’s still a top midfield section and bottom middle section, but that’s kind of our hunting ground.

“I think depending on the circuit and what track suits us or not, we’ll be on the either in the midfield or a little bit further back.”

Lando Norris in the pit lane on the opening day of 2024 F1 pre-season testing in Bahrain | McLaren F1 Team
Lando Norris in the pit lane on the opening day of 2024 F1 pre-season testing in Bahrain | McLaren F1 Team

We at Total-Motorsport.com actually agree. The major change predicted is RB to jump from being one of the slowest teams to sixth at best and even on that front, we’re still undivided and sceptical.

We also don’t expect much change for Williams with them ranging from the same spectrum of being second-last to sixth at best but in a tighter field that can be related to driver strength rather than car performance.

The field looks like it’s going to remain in the same mini-leagues as aforementioned. Verstappen looks unstoppable, the race for second will be thrilling, the race for low points could have three teams involved, and Haas are just there to make up the numbers really.

How prepared are McLaren?

Nobody really knows where they are exactly because of how secretive the teams are during F1 testing.

Max Verstappen leads McLaren's Oscar Pisatri on the opening day of 2024 F1 pre-season testing on the Bahrain International Circuit | Mark Thompson/Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool
Max Verstappen leads McLaren’s Oscar Pisatri on the opening day of 2024 F1 pre-season testing on the Bahrain International Circuit | Mark Thompson/Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Fuel loads, engine modes, set-up changes, tyres and drivers are all effective methods to hide the true pace of the car from anyone watching on and teams regularly deploy them to surprise their competitors at the start of a season.

But it can also create false impressions and McLaren have been victims of this in both 2022 and 2023 as they began the campaigns on the back-front in qualifying and race trim before later sorting them out in the middle of the year.

Yet for 2024, Norris expects his team to buck the trend, rather than conform to it, and arrive at the Bahrain International Circuit feeling prepared to take on the record-breaking number of races in a single season.

“In terms of just how the preseason test went,” Norris added. “It was a lot better than last year. We’re in a much better position than last year, so that’s the most important thing.”

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